It was just yesterday that I held my son Aryeh in my arms, mere minutes old, awed with the responsibility of raising him. He was my firstborn – and until I first held him, I had no clue what a tremendous journey parenthood would be.

He turned 17 this past summer, and made the decision to leave New York and make aliya soon after his 18th birthday (Summer 2013) and head straight to the army.

Now, I have raised my children to be Zionists. Israel has always been front and center in our lives – even while sending the kids to right-wing yeshivas, where they would be the only ones wearing blue and white on Yom Haatzmaut — a day that was never celebrated in their schools. We spoke endlessly at home about Israel, and when Aryeh became bar mitzvah, I took him to visit. He fell in love with his country; he cried at the Kotel and felt that deep connection to his land that exists within him to this day. Even at 13 he felt that he was home.

My entire family lives in Israel – the kids have grandparents there, uncles and aunts and cousins, and plenty of extended family. I’m the only renegade that doesn’t live there… yet.

Israel has always been so important to us.

Even so, hearing my son say he was making aliya and joining the army struck very deeply. My firstborn son. Wasn’t it yesterday that he was taking his hesitant first steps? Wasn’t it recently he was making Lego guns and playing war with his younger brothers? Now he wants to do this for real? Not only is he planning to leave home, but he is going so far away and enlisting!

Young olim land in Israel in preparation for joining the army (photo credit: courtesy Nefesh B’Nefesh)

Young olim land in Israel in preparation for joining the army (photo credit: courtesy Nefesh B’Nefesh)

My challenge as his mom was to make sure he was making the decision based on reality, not some kind of dream world – but also to support him. We’ve informed ourselves of the different programs available, we’ve spoken to many people. Many friends are surprised that we are “allowing” him to do this. I couldn’t stop him if I tried. I would rather he go with my blessing than leave with resentment. Because any way you slice it, he’s going.

He’s excited and nervous and everything in between. I am proud. This is what I wanted for my boys – for them to grow up and become good people, giving and helpful, ready to contribute to society. I wish when I had been his age that I had known what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be.

I am a little sad. But my sadness has nothing to do with the Israel part. I am sad because my little boy’s childhood is almost over, and he’ll be starting a new life far away from me. However, I have to have faith that I have taught him the right lessons, and instilled the correct core values. He is an awesome kid, and I am so very proud!

Over the next nine or so months I will watch him get ready and help him in whichever ways he allows me to. Nine months will give me time to adjust to the reality, and hopefully prepare myself so that I can wave him goodbye at JFK with a smile on my face, and no floods of tears. I just know that when I get home from saying goodbye, my second son will be starting out on his own road toward aliya.

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